Mike Tomlin has been coaching the Pittsburgh Steelers for 14 seasons now—or at least is currently in his 14th season. With Sunday’s win against the Dallas Cowboys, he secured a perfect record through the half of the year, a guaranteed non-losing season, and a place in the record books.
Reaching 8-0, Tomlin ensured that he would post a non-losing season yet again, something that he has done every single season of his career as a head coach, for 14 years running. No head coach in NFL history has ever begun his head coaching career with a longer consecutive streak of non-losing seasons.
He tied the record set by Marty Schottenheimer, who posted 14 consecutive non-losing seasons as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns and the Kansas City Chiefs between 1984 and 1997 to begin his coaching tenure. Schottenheimer, who is one of just eight coaches in NFL history to win at least 200 games (seven more than Chuck Noll), posted nine seasons of 10 or more wins during that time.
In fact, over the life of his coaching career, he posted an overall record of 200-126-1, and had just two losing seasons over 21 years. He had just one season worse than 7-9, that being a disastrous 4-12 campaign with the San Diego Chargers in 2003 that resulted in their drafting Eli Manning (and then trading him to the New York Giants in exchange for Philip Rivers and other compensation).
In all, Schottenheimer posted a record of 138-76-1 in his first 14 seasons—noting that he only served as head coach for half the season in his first year in 1984, going 4-4. He also coached only 15 games in 1987 because a strike shortened the season by one game. In all, that equates to a winning percentage of .644.
As for Tomlin, with his 8-0 start this year, he has brought his career winning percentage up to .655 with half the season yet to play, but as he has done every year of his career as a head coach, he has already guaranteed that he can’t possibly finish worse than .500. His winning percentage currently ranks 16th all time, and eighth among the 43 head coaches with at least 100 wins.
Tomlin and Schottenheimer do not, of course, own the overall record for the longest streak of seasons without posting a losing record. That would belong to Bill Belich—had you fooled, didn’t I? No, it’s not Bill Belichick, who is looking to extend his active streak to 20, but currently has the New England Patriots with a losing record in his first season in basically decades without Tom Brady.
The owner of the record for the most consecutive non-losing seasons in NFL history is none other than the great Tom Landry, the legendary head coach of the team Tomlin just beat to secure the record for the most consecutive non-losing seasons to begin a career.
Landry, whose Cowboys appeared in five Super Bowls, winning two (and losing two to the Steelers), posted no worse than a .500 record for 21 consecutive years from 1965 to 1985. That streak was preceded by five losing seasons and succeeded by three more, but there is no denying that this is certainly one of the great streaks in football history. Just think about it. Even now, Tomlin is only two thirds of the way there.